The last time the organization expanded the number of regions was in 2007.

For the first time since 2012, the James Beard Foundation is changing the regions for its Best Chef Awards. In order to properly represent chefs across different states, the organization is expanding the number of regions from 10 to 12. 

This isn’t the first time the organization has made tweaks. “Every few years, with the help of demographers who analyze current population and hospitality industry data, as well as an ear to the ground about what culinary communities are burgeoning where, we revisit the division of states into regions,” the company said in a statement. 

The last time it expanded the number of regions was 2007, when the number went from 8 to 10. 

“By increasing our regional awards from 10 to 12 we are recognizing the explosion of food and restaurant culture across the country, and we are pleased to share this news with the food and hospitality community and all those who follow our annual Awards,” James Beard Foundation chief strategy officer Mitchell Davis said in a statement. 

Recent analysis of the industry supports the organization’s decision to reintroduce stand-alone states as their own regions. With a large growing population and restaurant density to match, Texas is now designated as its own region. California, which previously stood as its own region from 1991–2007, will be removed from the West region to form its own regional category.

Another change comes to the state of New York. Since 1992, the five boroughs of New York City have stood alone. The rest of New York was a part of the New England region. Now, New York City will be a part of the newly established New York State region. 

“While the city’s food culture remains vibrant and dynamic, it is no longer the only or the best gastro game in town,” the organization said in a statement. “To recognize the incredible depth and diversity of dining in cities in other regions across the country, we are beginning to level the playing field.”

Here are a few other changes the Beard Foundation has made concerning the regional categories:

  • The West and Northwest categories will be partially combined into a new Northwest & Pacific category. This region will now consist of Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington.
  • The remaining states from the former Northwest category will join Colorado in the newly minted “Mountain” category, which will consist fully of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming.
  • The Southwest, having lost Texas and Colorado, will now consist of Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Nevada.
  • The Northeast category remains the same minus New York, and now consists fully of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
  • The regions that remain unchanged are Great Lakes, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, South, and Southeast.

“The national restaurant scene and the populations that fuel it are constantly shifting,” Davis said in a statement. “We understand that as a Foundation, we must continually adapt to serve our community as fairly as possible.” 

Redistricting is just one of the tools the foundation uses to ensure fairness, inclusivity, and transparency, Davis said. The organization will monitor the evolution of the industry and population data in these new regions to make sure fair and balanced results come from the redistricting.

Chef Profiles, Feature